While many celebrities have been sentenced for minor misdemeanours, as history and media/court records have shown, a number have also been convicted of committing major crimes that have resulted in considerably longer prison sentences. The following five high-profile celebrities fit within this infamous group.
King – 1966
Don King found fame in the sport of boxing as a promoter of some of the world’s most famous heavyweights, including Ali, Tyson and Hollyfield. However, periods of his life before he joined the boxing fraternity can only be described as being infamous, not least due to his involvement is serious crimes. On two occasions, he was charged with murder. During the first incident in 1954, King was accused of shooting and killing a man who was trying to rob one of his casinos. King was cleared of murder on this occasion and the verdict was that the shooting was justifiable homicide. However, in 1966, King was again arrested on the charge of murder. On this occasion, he was accused of beating a man to death who owed him $600. Although the officer who witnessed part of the attack considered it to be almost demonic in nature, King was convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter for which he served 4 years in prison.
Brown – 1988 and later
While James Brown may have been worthy of the title ‘Godfather of Soul’, his own private life was much less of a good example to others, certainly when one considers his criminal record. At the early age of 16 he had been arrested for theft and spent three years in prison when convicted of the offense. Furthermore, yet more offenses were to follow during his adult life. In 1988 for example, he was arrested following a two-state car chase with the police, at the end of which, when stopped, he was accused of attempting to kill the two officers who finally arrested him. Brown was cleared of the attempted killings but guilty of the failure to stop charge and the lesser charges of two assaults on the police officers.
However, this incident was not the end of Brown’s brushes with the law. During the 1990s and 2000s, Brown was arrested on around 4 occasions on domestic violence assault charges. This included in 2004 when his wife accused him of shooting at a car she was in and beating her with an iron pipe. However, he did not serve prison time for any of these alleged offenses.
O.J Simpson – December 2008
Following his acquittal on a double-murder charge of his wife and her friend in 1995, O.J. Simpson again found himself as defendant in a criminal case thirteen years later when, in 2008 he stood accused of a dozen charges including armed robbery and kidnapping. The charges stem from an incident that occurred at the Palace Station Casino Hotel in Las Vegas. Simpson and two other associates broke into a hotel room where two sports memorabilia brokers were meeting and one of his associates drew a gun on the two men. Simpson then proceeded to take some of the memorabilia which, he stated in court, were his own property. Lawyers for Simpson argued that he was only seeking to recover his own property, not robbing the two men, and that he was unaware that one of his associates had a gun. However, he was unaware that the whole episode had been videotaped. Based upon this evidence, the jury did not believe his defense and Simpson was found guilty of the charges and sentence to up to 33 years in prison and is currently endeavouring to launch a second appeal against the conviction.
Phil Spector – 2009
After a mistrial was called in 2007 when the jury could not reach a unanimous decision, in 2009, Spector, a renowned music producer was tried for the second time for the murder of Lana Clarkson, a former actress. Clarkson died in 2003 at his mansion from a gunshot fired in her mouth. Spector’s lawyers argued that Clarkson had committed suicide. However, five other women witnesses testified that Spector had threatened them with a gun if they failed to acquiesce to his demands and his driver stated that Spector had told him he thought that he had killed someone. The jury in 2009 returned a unanimous verdict of guilty of first-degree murder and Spector was sentenced to 19 years to life.
Snipes – 2008
In comparison with the previous celebrities, Wesley Snipes brush with crime can be considered as being less of a major event. However, to the extent that the offenses occurred over a ten year period, it is still significant. The offense that Snipes was convicted of was a failure to pay federal taxes between 1999 and 2004 and of not making the required tax returns for a significant number of years. Snipes was convicted of the offenses in 2008 and sentenced to three years imprisonment, which began in late 2010 after a number of failed appeals. However, he was released in April 2013 to spend the remainder of the sentence confined to his home.
The review of these cases, together with a host of other criminal misdemeanours that have been committed by and recorded in the past, shows that the prevalence to commit major crimes is just as widespread in the celebrity segment as it is in other sectors of the population.